Scientists Developing New Methods of Detecting Cancer, Including Blood Tests and Sniffer Dogs

Both high-tech and low-tech techniques have seen progress

Scientists Developing New Methods of Detecting Cancer, Including Blood Tests and Sniffer Dogs
Image: Pixabay
March 27, 2017

A great deal of the progress that has been made in treating cancer over recent years has been in early detection. When the disease is detected in its early stages, it is usually more likely that it can be beaten.

For this reason, oncologists are excited about news from the University of California, where researchers claim to have created a blood test known as CancerLocator. The test tells doctors not only that the patient has cancer but also where in the body it is located.

CancerLocator works by identifying cancer DNA circulating in the blood stream.

"Non-invasive diagnosis of cancer is important, as it allows the early diagnosis of cancer, and the earlier the cancer is caught, the higher chance a patient has of beating the disease," said Jasmine Zhou, co-lead author at UCLA.

She notes that scientists are just now starting to understand the technology and that it will take time for them to figure out how it can be used on a practical basis.

Mayo Clinic researchers are also working on detecting cancer through blood tests. Like the UCLA scientists, the Clinic's test focuses on identifying the disease's DNA in blood samples.

"What's exciting about our discovery is that it allows us to stop thinking about screening organs and start thinking about screening people," said Dr. John Kisiel from the Clinic. "As far as we are aware, this is the first series of experiments that has ever shown this concept."

On the other end of the technology spectrum, scientists have also been working on training dogs to detect breast cancer by sniffing bandages that touched a breast affected by the disease.

The researchers report that the dogs have been accurate 100 percent of the time. French news agency AFP reports that project leader Isabelle Fromantin claims that cancer-detecting dogs could be useful in developing countries where access to mammograms is limited.

Fromantin said that the cells in breast cancer have a unique smell that German shepherds can detect with training due to their keen sense of smell.